With the forecast suggesting the calmest conditions of the entire week will be enjoyed on Thursday morning, Steve Rawlings has concentrated on the early starters on day one to see if can find the first round leader...
"With the combination of a really good draw, previous form at St Andrews and a history of starting quickly, Thomas Bjorn looks a very solid selection and the fact that he’s an industry best price of 150/1 with the Sportsbook is a big bonus."
Having placed my Open Championship outright wagers well in advance of any weather forecasts, viewing the opening tee times on announcement yesterday was a moment of trepidation and I wasn't too enamoured by the times allocated to my selections, with long time ante-post pick, Branden Grace, and strong fancy, Martin Kaymer, both allotted afternoon starts on Thursday.
Although the forecast is constantly shifting, Thursday morning looks set to be the easiest timeslot all week long, with the wind almost non existent until lunchtime and so it makes absolute sense to concentrate entirely on those starting early for this market. With the course at its pristine best, getting a nice early start on the first day of any tournament is usually preferable but when the forecast suggests totally benign conditions before lunch, the advantage is accentuated further.
The stronger of my two fancies is Thomas Bjorn, who features in the very first three-ball alongside Greg Owen and Rod Pampling at 06:32. The veteran Dane finished runner-up to Tiger Woods here in the 2000 edition and he has a habit of starting fast and especially so at links venues - he led the 2011 Open Championship after round one and he's twice before led the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship (2009 and 2010).
In the space of just 10 months Bjorn led after round one four times on the European Tour, between November 2013 and August 2014, and as recently as April he was tied for the lead after day one of the Indonesian Masters on the Asian Tour.
With the combination of a really good draw, previous form at St Andrews and a history of starting quickly, Thomas Bjorn looks a very solid selection and the fact that he's an industry best price of 150/1 with the Sportsbook is a big bonus.
My second pick is also someone that you won't find priced up any bigger anywhere else and that's J.B Holmes at 80/1.
Currently ranked 7th for Round 1 Scoring Average on the PGA Tour, Holmes has already set the early pace on the PGA Tour twice this season - at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Holmes hasn't got a terrific Open record but his best result to date came here in 2010 when he finished 14th. He doesn't start quite so early as my number one fancy, Bjorn, but at 8:44, he gets off and running early enough.
The player with the number one Round 1 Scoring Average ranking on the PGA Tour at the moment is Bubba Watson who kicks off just 16 minutes after Holmes. I was tempted to play him also, if only to enjoy thinking of a headline but at just 40/1, there isn't quite enough juice in the price for me to press go.
J.B Holmes @ 80/1 (Sportsbook)
Thomas Bjorn @ 150/1 (Sportsbook)
I'll be back later with a look at some of the other side markets for the Open Championship and also with my Barbasol Championship preview but if you haven't yet seen it, here's my full Open Championship preview, first published on Saturday.
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